April - May 2021
In This Issue
  • From the Executive Director
  • ACI Virtual Benefit Reception Features Students, Business and Government Leaders
  • ACI Board Recognizes Departing Presidents, Reappoints Members, Reviews Current Fiscal Year
  • ACI Board of Trustees Elects Two New Corporate Board Members 
  • Student scholar: Malik Johnson, Rockford University
  • ACI Virtual Event Focuses Attention on Illinois Liberal Arts and Sciences Education, Data that Demonstrates Alumni Employability
  • Gregg Chenoweth Named President of Olivet Nazarene University
  • ACI's Spring Conference is June 7-10
  • Grants Awarded to ACI Total More than $390,000 for Current Fiscal Year
  • ACI Executive Director Presents at CIC Conference
  • Upcoming Events
  • From ACI corporate partner Degree Insurance: Student Debt, Social Justice and the American Dream
  • Help provide scholarship support for low-income and first-generation students
From the Executive Director
Dear Friends:
With both sadness and hope for the future, ACI will soon say goodbye to two staff/consultants. Leslie Millenson, who has worked in a variety of roles for 25 years (her most recent was as director, special programs), will retire May 31. Fred Siegman, who worked as a consultant for ACI for more than four years, helped introduce ACI to corporate leaders. Thanks for all your great work and support. We’ll miss you both.
Closing doors also provides opportunities to open new doors. Constance Willoughby, who currently is director, events and scholarships (and has been with ACI more than five years), will become director, programs, June 1, succeeding Leslie. In addition, Lindsey Travers will begin her work with ACI May 6. She will be director, events and scholarships, succeeding Constance in her current position.
Mick Weltman
Executive Director
ACI Virtual Benefit Reception Features Students, Business and Government Leaders
Annual Benefit raises more than $76,000
ACI's 2021 Virtual Benefit Reception was live online April 16.
ACI raised more than $76,000 at this year's Benefit Reception, a virtual event because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Student speakers who benefitted from ACI's scholarships and programs were joined by business and government leaders. All urged online viewers to donate to ACI, which provides scholarships and targeted programs primarily to first-generation, low-income students enrolled at ACI's 26 member college and universities.
The program was hosted by Rob Johnson, president of Rob Johnson Communications, Chicago, and a former Chicago television news anchor. Virtual Benefit Reception gifts to ACI can be contributed through April 30.
It's a big challenge for many first-generation and low-income students to earn a college degree and achieve career success, said Lyn Bulman, ACI board chair, opening the program. ACI helps by improving graduation rates for first-generation, low-income students and by providing financial aid. She noted that ACI's member colleges and universities contribute $3.75 billion in value annually to the state's economy, and more than 24,000 ACI alumni are employed by Illinois 148 largest companies. Plus, ACI schools provide more than 60 percent of the state's nurses and teachers, Bulman said.
"Investing in ACI provides value to our schools, to our students, and to our state. And the needs have never been greater," Bulman said.
 From left, Dayshon Moore, Abby Garrett and Chloe Overstreet
Student testimonials emphasized opportunities ACI has provided them. For example, Dayshon Moore, right, an exercise science major at Rockford University, is part of the university's Men of Color Mentorship Program, through ACI's Peer Mentoring Program. Moore funds his own tuition expenses. "The support given by mentors on this campus is irreplaceable. If it weren't for this program, I wouldn't be here today," he said.
Abby Garrett, above center, an Illinois College music performance major, pays her own tuition expenses as well. She noted how ACI has inspired her. "The work you do and the support you give matters so much, not only to me, but to other students. Your generosity encourages us to continue towards a path of higher education and a better future for ourselves," she told viewers. Garrett also provided a vocal performance for viewers.
Chloe Overstreet, above right, a Eureka College student and ACI board member, said her ACI board experience  provided an opportunity to serve the students that ACI helps. "Having been a part of several ACI programs myself, I knew how important the work ACI does is to these students," she said.
Government, business leaders endorse ACI's work
Two alumni of ACI institutions, serving in Illinois government, commented on ACI's value to the state. Benedictine University alumnus John Atkinson, Burr Ridge, Illinois, is chair of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. College transformed his life, he says. "As a proud alum of Benedictine University, I learned first-hand the value of a liberal arts education. I admire the work that ACI is doing in this state and encourage you to support this organization's efforts," Atkinson added.
Sen. Don Harmon, Oak Park, Illinois, is a Knox College alumnus and president of the Illinois Senate. He supports ACI's work to fill financial gaps for at-risk college students. "I also recognize the impact ACI is making in the state by preparing students for life after college through its college-to-career initiative," he said.
Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs, Champaign, Illinois, is the state's chief investment and banking officer. He was the first in his family to attend college and knows first-hand that college costs can hinder graduation rates. "That's why ACI should be commended for their dedication to help fulfill these gaps to make college attainable. The work that ACI is doing across the state is critical," Frerichs said.
ACI Board member J. Vincent Williams said he supports ACI because it helps ensure low-to-moderate income students and first-generation college students are exposed "to support networks, mentors, advocacy and career opportunities," as well a chance to earn a college degree. Williams is president and CEO of the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council.
Thank you Virtual Benefit Reception sponsors!
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ACI Board Recognizes Departing Presidents, Reappoints Members, Reviews Current Fiscal Year
At its annual meeting April 16, ACI board members expressed appreciation to three member college and university presidents who are retiring this year. Board members also updated the organization's bylaws and reviewed the current fiscal year results.
 From left, President Teresa L. Amott, President Donna M. Carroll and President John C. Bowling
The annual meeting was held virtually because of the ongoing pandemic.
The three presidents are retiring after long tenures. They include President Teresa L. Amott, right, Knox College, 10 years; President Donna M. Carroll, right center, Dominican University, 27 years; and President John C. Bowling, Olivet Nazarene University, 30 years. Amott and Carroll spoke to the board about their experiences.
Lyn Bulman, chair, ACI Board of Trustees
"We want to thank you for the time you've spent with your institutions, but also as part of ACI," said Lyn Bulman, left, ACI board chair, on the board's behalf. "It matters to us that we have presidents who are involved. We wish you every success as you move into the next phase of your lives."
Board reappoints members, revises bylaws
The full board reappointed 11 members to two-year terms. Reappointed were Justin Lee Allen, Elizabeth Cook, Demetrio Garcia, Kelly Kirkman, Ray Knouse, Barry Mastin, Debora Osgood, Chloe Overstreet, Nicholas Simpson, Bradley Summers and Angie Winschel. The board also clarified terms of office for all other current board members.
The board approved minor revisions to the ACI bylaws, relating to membership and leadership responsibilities. It also approved revisions to board members' roles and responsibilities.
2020-2021 fiscal year led to program adjustments, executive director says
Mick Weltman, ACI executive director, reported about the organization's accomplishments in the current fiscal year ending May 31, and future plans. A number of adjustments were required because of COVID-19 restrictions, he said:
  • ACI organized four virtual Work and Life Skills Boot CampsRecordings of all four are available on the ACI website. ACI will likely host two boot camps next academic year.
  • Career mentoring was initiated, with seven ACI schools participating
  • In conjunction with Knox College, ACI will plan two virtual career fairs for next academic year
  • ACI expects to expand from 11 to 12 sites for its Peer Mentoring Program next academic year
  • ACI's Fall 2020 Professional Development Conference, held virtually, attracted 225 staff from member schools
  • Regular, informal quarterly conversations have been started with presidents and provosts, and presidents and corporate trustees 
  • ACI hopes to establish an endowment fund this year
  • Staff changes and new appointments were shared with the board
ACI Board of Trustees Elects Two New Corporate Board Members 
The ACI Board of Trustees elected two new corporate board members at the organization's annual meeting April 16. ACI's board members include 34 corporate members and the presidents of ACI's 26 colleges and universities.
Robert J. Dow, Graystone ConsultingThe new board members are Robert J. Dow, executive director, Morgan Stanley, and consulting director, Graystone Consulting, and Nichole Johnson, area vice president, higher education and nonprofit benefits and HR consulting, Gallagher.
Graystone Consulting is one of the leading national firms of its kind, providing investment and consulting advice. Dow is one of the firm's senior institutional consultants recognized for working with community foundations, education, health care and other nonprofits. He was recently named to Barron’s top 100 institutional consulting teams in the country. Dow earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Economics from Illinois State University, Normal, and a Master of Business Administration from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, Lake Forest, Illinois.
Nichole Johnson, Gallagher
At Gallagher, Johnson specializes in providing employee benefits insurance brokerage and consulting services for higher education and nonprofit employers. Her expertise is in helping clients align their employee benefit strategies with their organizational goals. She serves as a liaison between employers and insurance carriers and assists them in strategy, vendor management and ongoing support. Johnson is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with a Bachelor of Science in in Marketing and Business Process Management. On June 1, she will succeed Bill Powell, a longstanding board member, also representing Gallagher.
Malik Johnson
Rockford UniversityMalik Johnson will graduate from Rockford University this spring.
ACI Peer Mentoring Program
Malik Johnson will graduate this year from Rockford University, Rockford, Illinois. A computer science major, the senior says he’s interested in storage management. Along the way, he’s been an intern at Commonwealth Edison — where he says he got good feedback — and a mentee and mentor in the Men of Color Mentorship (MCM) Program at Rockford, part of ACI’s Peer Mentoring Program network.
Johnson, from the Chicago area, says he chose Rockford because of its small classes. Plus, he plays on the university’s football team. “Right now I play a couple of positions. I play a defensive back/linebacker hybrid position, like the nickelback, but now I’m kind of the safety. Football has always been my main sport,” he says.
When he first came to college, Johnson, a first-generation college student, says he found it difficult to find resources, but found success by networking with others who had been to college. His family has also been helpful. “They let me know that I have their full support. And they always back me up with any decision that I make,” he says.
ACI Virtual Event Focuses Attention on Illinois Liberal Arts and Sciences Education, Data that Demonstrates Alumni Employability
Higher education, business leaders, student address education-business partnership
See video of this event at
Strong connections between Illinois liberal arts and sciences colleges and universities, and the state’s business community, can keep more students in Illinois for higher education and help them move into promising careers at hundreds of Illinois-based companies. Higher education and business leaders spoke on the topic in a virtual video event March 9, sponsored by ACI.
Called “A Smarter Solution: How Liberal Arts and Business Together are Solving Illinois’ Challenges,” the online event was hosted by President Jamel Santa Cruze Wright of Eureka College. Wright is also ACI president. "When educators and the business community to work together, they help students prepare for successful and fulfilling lives, and help the state work toward future growth and prosperity," she said.
President Jamel Santa Cruze Wright of Eureka College was host for the virtual event.
Keeping students in Illinois for education and opportunities
Addressing the outflow of residents and students from Illinois to other states, President Philip G. Ryken of Wheaton College noted that the state’s population has declined by nearly 300,000 people in the past decade, a high decline. About 20,000 are undergraduates who have gone elsewhere to study, he said. “It’s a real shame to see students go to other places is because we have such excellent colleges and universities in the State of Illinois,” Ryken said, adding this is especially true of ACI members.
Kunal Kapoor, CEO of Morningstar, Inc., Chicago, and graduate of Monmouth College, said the pandemic of the past year tested the value of a liberal arts and sciences education. “It was a fantastic time to show whether you had learning agility, critical thinking skills, the willingness to adapt, and also the willingness to think about the future in entirely different ways,” he said. A strong education system is key to Chicago’s re-emergence as a vibrant city for economic and employment opportunities, Kapoor added.
Experiential learning a distinction of ACI students’ success
"OMorningstar CEO Kunal Kapoor said the pandemic tested importance of a liberal arts education.ur institutions emphasize experiential learning that is hands-on and project-based, so knowledge can be applied," said Dr. Teresa L. Amott, president of Knox College. "Most important, we teach our students critical thinking skills – how to engage in rigorous questioning, how to find, analyze and use evidence to communicate persuasively. These are the skills needed for lifelong learning." Many ACI schools provide mentors and guides, faculty and staff, throughout their college journeys, she noted.
In his experience at North Central College, President Troy D. Hammond said corporate partnerships are vital to preparing students for career success. With a grant from the Council of Independent Colleges, ACI compiled publicly available information from several sources including LinkedIn, he said. "The data shows that about 24,000 employees at those companies had graduated from 26 ACI colleges and universities," Hammond said. "And 148 Illinois companies employ at least 25 ACI alumni or more." Companies employing ACI alumni span virtually every industry and sector, with health care, financial services and insurance in the top three, he said.
Chloe Overstreet, a junior at Eureka College and ACI board member, said her college experience has prepared her well for the future, and she hopes to remain in Illinois. "The focus in the liberal arts curriculum on more than simply content but transferable skills has forced me to use critical thinking, communication and analysis in every class I’ve taken here at Eureka. It is this focus on transferable skills that sets the liberal arts education apart from other schools," she said. Programs such as ACI’s Work and Life Skills Boot Camps expose students to employers, who discuss skills they seek for in entry-level candidates to be successful, she added.
Mark A. Vargas, graduate of Judson University, tech entrepreneur and ACI board member, challenged viewers to get involved with ACI programs that benefit students and hire graduates of ACI-affiliated colleges and universities. "Think about this: United Airlines, Google, Northrup Grumman, Walgreen’s, Rush University Medical Center, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and so many other businesses that we recognize. What do they have in common? They’ve all hired ACI colleges and university graduates," he said.
Gregg Chenoweth Named President of Olivet Nazarene University
New president to succeed John C. Bowling, who has served 30 years as ONU president 
Gregg Chenoweth will becomes Olivet Nazarene University's president June 1.
The Olivet Nazarene University Board of Trustees elected Dr. Gregg Chenoweth as the 13th president of Olivet Nazarene University. Chenoweth, currently president of Bethel University, Mishawaka, Indiana, will assume his duties as university president on June 1, according to a university news release. He will succeed Dr. John C. Bowling, who in August 2019 announced his plans to retire. 
Chenoweth graduated from Olivet in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in communication. He earned a master’s degree in organizational communication from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, in 1992, and a doctorate in organizational communication from Wayne State University, Detroit, in 2003.
Chenoweth has been the president of Bethel University since 2013. He previously served as the vice president for academic affairs at Olivet. During his tenure as Bethel's president, he dramatically improved the university’s financial landscape by increasing net assets by 30 percent and reducing long-term debt by 40 percent. Chenoweth also dramatically improved institutional culture, implemented successful debt-free programs for students and completed an extensive strategic planning process.
"I am honored by the confidence of the board," Chenoweth said after the election, "and eager to add my ambitions to a faculty and staff already doing something special. If I could help reproduce for students even a fraction of what Olivet did for me, there will be a lot to celebrate."
ACI's Spring Conference is June 7-10
ACI's Spring Professional Development Conference is June 7-10. It is a virtual event via Zoom webinar.
ACI's professional development conferences are for staff of ACI's member colleges and universities. Each day of the upcoming conference will focus on a specific autdience track, according to Constance Willoughby, ACI director for conferences and scholarships.  
Advancement staff will meet June 7. June 8 is for finance staff; June 9 is for public relations and marketing staff; and June 10 is for student engagement staff.
Online registration will open in mid-May, Willoughby said.
Grants Awarded to ACI Total More than $390,000 for Current Fiscal Year
Recent grants include A. Montgomery Ward Foundation, CME Group Foundation and PACCAR Foundation
Grants totaling more than $390,000 have been awarded to ACI in the current fiscal year ending May 31. Recent grant awards were from the A. Montgomery Ward Foundation, CME Group Foundation and PACCAR Foundation.
"Grants are especially important to ACI, because these gracious funders make it possible for us to award scholarships to students who need financial assistance to remain in school and earn degrees," says Mick Weltman, ACI executive director. "In addition, these grants help students with emergency financial needs, and they help us provide helpful programming directly to students."
The A. Montgomery Ward Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee, Chicago, awarded $52,000 to ACI to fund scholarships to students at member colleges and universities. Established in 1959 by Ward's daughter, the foundation supports charitable institutions that provide quality educational and cultural programming for current and future residents of Chicago and surrounding communities. The foundation has provided grants to ACI for more than 50 years, said Lauren Holhut, ACI director, advancement.
CME Group Foundation, Chicago, awarded a two-year general operating grant totaling $50,000 to ACI. Funds will be provided to ACI in two installments of $25,000 each, to be used from July 1 this year to June 30, 2023, according to the grant agreement. In July 2020, CME Group Foundation awarded ACI a one year, $25,000 general operating grant. CME Group board member Elizabeth Cook is a member of the ACI Board of Trustees.
The PACCAR Foundation, headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, supports scholarships through ACI, and increased its funding from $10,000 to $30,000 this fiscal year. The foundation has provided scholarship funds to ACI and member students for more than 25 years, Holhut says.
ACI Executive Director Presents at CIC Conference 
Mick Mick Weltman is ACI executive director.Weltman, ACI executive director, presented at the Council for Independent Colleges' State Councils 2021 Annual Conference April 26-27. 
Weltman joined Louis Manzione, president of the Independent College Fund of New Jersey, in a session focused on strategic priorities for board members. Weltman also chaired a conference roundtable session on college-to-career initiatives.
The virtual conference, with the theme, "New Realities in Higher Education," was for State Council executives and staff from nearly 30 state organizations from through the country.
Upcoming Events
  • Monday, May 31: Memorial Day, ACI office closed
  • Monday, June 7 to Thursday, June 10: ACI Virtual Professional Development Conference, via Zoom
  • Wednesday, June 9: ACI presidents conversation, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., via Zoom
  • Friday, June 11: ACI provosts conversation, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., via Zoom
  • Sunday, June 13 to Tuesday, June 15: Midwest Roundtable on Talent, Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan
  • Friday, June 18: ACI presidents/corporate trustees conversation, 11 a.m. to noon, via Zoom
  • Monday, July 5: Independence Day (observed), ACI office closed
  • Monday, Sept. 6: Labor Day, ACI office closed
  • Wednesday, Sept. 8: ACI presidents conversation, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., via Zoom
  • Friday, Sept. 10: ACI provosts conversation, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., via Zoom
  • Friday, Sept. 17: ACI presidents/corporate trustees conversation, 11 a.m. to noon, via Zoom
  • Thursday, Sept. 30: ACI Virtual Career Fair, via Zoom
  • Thursday, Oct. 14: Wealth Advisors Breakfast, University Club of Chicago
  • Wednesday, Dec. 8: ACI presidents conversation, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., via Zoom
  • Friday, Dec. 10: ACI provosts conversation, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., via Zoom
  • Friday, Dec. 17: ACI presidents/corporate trustees conversation, 11 a.m. to noon, via Zoom
From ACI corporate partner Degree Insurance
Student Debt, Social Justice and the American Dream debt is a roadblock to social justice: 45 million Americans carry student debt, but Black college graduates owe an average of $25,000 more in debt than their white counterparts. That debt stands between them and the promise of financial security—the very reason why many pursue an education in the first place. It all but guarantees the vicious cycle of poverty and racial inequality in this country. Yet, simply forgiving it won’t make the underlying problem go away. While cancelling student debt is a nice idea, waving a wand to make it disappear would fail to address any of the causes underlying the debt. In fact, if all student debt were forgiven today, in 15 years we would be right back where we started with $1.7 trillion in new student debt issued.
For more information, contact: 
Seth Gummere
Help provide scholarship support for low-income and first-generation students
To give to ACI, visit
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many students experience college, but one thing remains true: the value of a liberal arts education is priceless. Upon earning a liberal arts degree, students are leaving college and joining the workforce equipped with strong critical thinking skills and the ability to adapt to the fast-paced and ever-changing demands of the professional world.
Join ACI in helping provide scholarship support for low-income and first-generation students. Your gift makes a difference for many underserved college students attending ACI-affiliated institutions across Illinois. To see the impact your gift can have on these students, watch them tell their stories and see how ACI scholarships make a difference in their lives. Visit our website to make a gift today. Thank you for your support of ACI and students at member colleges and universities!
ACI Member Colleges and Universities 
Augustana College - Aurora University - Benedictine University - Blackburn College
 Concordia University Chicago - Dominican University - Elmhurst College - Eureka College - Illinois College
 Illinois Wesleyan University - Judson University - Knox College - Lewis University - McKendree University
 Millikin University - Monmouth College - North Central College - North Park University
 Olivet Nazarene University - Principia College - Quincy University - Rockford University
Saint Xavier University - Trinity Christian College - University of St. Francis - Wheaton College

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